Some decent ideas and effective intrigue help this Argentine psychological thriller along, but it’s not conclusive enough to land with much impact.
It isn’t cool to be a man anymore. Perhaps it never was. Either way, the oppressive gender isn’t easy to garner sympathy for these days, which immediately positions Sebastián Schindel’s Argentine psychological thriller The Son in an odd place. It’s a paternal spin on the age-old childbirth anxiety thriller, this time about a renowned beardy painter, Lorenzo (Joaquín Furriel), who becomes increasingly fraught at the idea of his sexy younger wife Sigrid (Heidi Toini) having replaced his infant son with someone else’s.
Arriving on Netflix today, June 26, The Son’s deliberately ambiguous script was adapted by Leonel D’Agostino from the novel by Guillermo Martínez; it’s a deliberately inscrutable tale full of symbolism and trite social observations, none of which amount to as distinctive an overall experience as the film seems to think. But its uniquely male perspective provides a refreshing enough slant on the played-out parental drama, acknowledging that matters of marriage and parenthood are just about the only arenas in which men are at an unfair disadvantage.
The film’s narrative architecture is recognizable; anxiety over the birth and raising of a child has been a ripe cinematic subject basically forever, but especially since Roman Polanski’s 1968 horror classic Rosemary’s Baby, however uncomfortable it might be that Polanski’s artistic and personal legacies are both defined by children. The Son isn’t as rooted in allegory as something like Darren Aronofsky’s awful Mother! or as profound an exploration of theme as Jennifer Kent’s Australian contemporary classic The Babadook, but it operates within the same kind of framework. It’s also effectively weird and intriguing for about as long as it lasts.
The problem is that The Son doesn’t leave you with anything substantial to chew on once it’s over. There are some good ideas and provoking themes, and the leading performances lend a believable degree of distress and confusion, but ultimately it’s a thin film that works just well enough in the moment to distract from how little of a long-term impression it’s leaving.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.